School bus crash sends 24 to hospitals
HAM LAKE, Minn. – A bus loaded with elementary school students hurtled through an intersection and into two other vehicles Friday, sending two dozen people – all but three of them children – to hospitals. The driver told investigators the brakes had failed.The crash happened just a few blocks from the bus’s destination, McKinley Elementary School, where parents rushed to find out if their kids were OK. The school set up a meeting center in the gym and contacted the parents of children on the bus, school officials said.Gas station clerk Maleck Terrion said he rushed outside as soon as he heard the crash. He found a mangled Chevy Tahoe resting on the edge of the gas station’s blacktop, more than 30 feet from where it was hit.”I dropped the phone that was in my hand and ran out” to the SUV, he said.Inside were three young children and their mother. The kids were “a little banged up” but the woman was more seriously hurt. Terrion, whose white T-shirt was spattered with blood, said he helped the children out.In all, 24 people were taken to hospitals Friday morning: 18 students, the bus driver, the family in the SUV and the driver of a station wagon heavily damaged in the crash, said Anoka County Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Jenkins.Most of those injured were not seriously hurt; several had been treated and released by Friday afternoon. The woman in the SUV, however was reported in critical condition.Uninjured children were taken to the school, where crisis counselors were on hand to talk but classes were held. Teachers talked to students about the crash, Principal Mark Van Voorhis said.”This is a difficult day for all of us here – students, staff and parents,” Van Voorhis said.Jenkins said the bus was driving north on state Highway 65 when it turned east toward the school.The bus driver, who wasn’t seriously hurt, “just said that he tried to apply the brakes, and they failed,” Jenkins said. “He pushed on the pedal and it was rock-hard.”The bus clipped the station wagon, and then crossed a median to hit the SUV. The bus then came to rest after striking a traffic light pole.”He was so distraught and worried about the kids,” Jenkins said of the driver, who had been on the job for two years.Chuck Holden, director of operations for the Anoka-Hennepin school district, said the bus was last inspected in February. “I am not aware of any problems with the vehicle,” he said, but noted that the accident was under investigation.The bus had no seat belts, except for the driver’s seat, Holden said.The school district’s bus fleet is run under contract by Kottke’s Bus Service Inc. Messages left with general manager Mike Pipenhagen were not immediately returned Friday.
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